Ba, Fiji - “I am going to my farm again,” Merewai Lewaniekuvu said with a large smile.
She had stopped going to her farm since she developed her knee pain over the last three years. The pain discouraged her to walk to and from her farm along the unpaved path from her village located on the hill and forced her to stay at home.
Her eyes were lit up when she received the walking cane and tested it in front of her house. She was visited by the group of specialists from the Spinal Injury Association (SIA), a non-governmental organization working in Fiji, who provides mobility equipment and technical assistance to people in need of such kind of support.
With the support of the Rights, Empowerment and Cohesion for Rural and Urban Fijians Project (REACH), the expert group visited the remote communities in mountainous interior of Fiji as part of the REACH mobile team who conducts awareness raising of the social, economic and legal rights enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Fiji and delivers associated services on doorsteps throughout Fiji. The initiative is coordinated by the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Legal Aid Commission, Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Office in Fiji.
The access to the government services for the people in the communities is often challenged by the geographical location which is quite distant from the town center where the services and support are being provided and even if people can travel, often there is very rough terrain delaying the transportation.
This is more so for people facing limited mobility. However, due to the REACH mobile service delivery some of them have recently obtained the technical advice and walking aids for the first time, and some obtained readjustment or repair for the maintenance of their equipment provided earlier.
Merewai was among 222 people (103 women and 119 men) who received the REACH mobile service delivery during the four-day visit to the interior communities in Savatu District in Ba Province, Western Division. Among them 11 people (five women and six men) were directly assisted by the SIA.
Jane Savou from SIA said, “We assist people to regain their mobility they lost. We encourage people to walk by themselves with some walking aids, so they stay healthy and active.”
“We were able to provide our services to the people who need mobility assistance but had never been provided before,” she added.
The importance of the services for people living with various challenges was evident during the visit, and it is particularly vital for those experts to reach out to the remote communities and find out the needs so that no one will be left behind. It was enabled through collaboration with the REACH mobile service initiative.
In addition to the technical support, two applications for disability allowance were submitted during the visit. The social welfare officer from the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation who was a part of the mobile service delivery, advised that the newly enacted disability allowance scheme enables individuals living with disabilities to receive economic assistance regardless of their family’s economic situation.
Fiji ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on 7 June 2017. The Disability Unit has been established within the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation and have been delivering disability allowance and associated support to people in need. The Disability Unit has also been working in collaboration with the SIA and other related groups and is an active part of the REACH mobile service delivery.
International Day of Persons with Disabilities which is 3 December was commemorated in Fiji by various groups.
The REACH mobile service delivery was conducted by the Rights, Empowerment and Cohesion (REACH) for Rural and Urban Fijians Project. The REACH Project is implemented by UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji in partnership with the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, and the Legal Aid Commission and supported by the Government of Japan and UNDP.
The REACH Project aims to contribute to Fiji’s achieving 17 Sustainable Development Goals with particular focus on the Goal 16 which is a commitment to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels; and the Goal 5 which is to achieve gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls.